Death Be Not Feared! Comforting Insight For The Suffering, Grieving And Dying
by Bob Olson, author of Answers About The Afterlife
[This is an article I wrote 15 years ago that still rings true today - so cool to see how I eliminated my fear of death.]
I believe that we can alter our life today simply by learning not to fear death. And by fearing death less we discover that we live life more! Shakespeare comments on this in Julius Caesar: “It seems to me most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
Isn’t it remarkable how this natural transition from one life to another—from our life on earth to our life in spirit—is so feared, yet it is a transition we will all be making? I believe that it is our ignorance of death that makes it so feared. And our ignorance remains because most of us do not acknowledge that death exists.
Francis Bacon wrote, “Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.” What are some of the tales we hear about death? We hear it is dark. We hear it is grim. We hear it is cold… or just the opposite—death is a fiery inferno for those who are sinners! We hear clichés like, “as cruel as death,” “as hungry as the grave,” or we associate death with other feared realities such as in Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, “Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.”
Woody Allen spoke what most of us feel. He said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” We don’t want to be there. We don’t want to die. Most of us don’t even want to think about death.
A childhood friend of mine—a gal I have known for almost twenty years—recently learned that her friend was probably going to die of cancer soon. The cancer was in this woman’s lungs and liver. During a stay at this gal’s home, my wife, Melissa, and I sat and talked with her about everything from the weather to her work and every aspect of her life, but she would not talk about her dying friend. Occasionally she would well up in tears and have to walk away. We were all aware of what weighed on her mind, but she would not talk about the most pressing topic of her thoughts—her friend’s imminent death.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross tells us that denial is the first stage in dealing with death. Apparently that is true for both the person dying and the people surrounding the person who is dying. We assume that if we don’t talk about it, then it isn’t real. But we need to talk about death to work through the other four stages. Dr. Kubler-Ross’ five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.
This gal’s inability to discuss her friend’s cancer may have resulted from her parents protecting her from death when she was a child. I don’t mean protecting her from her own death, but rather the death of others. Many parents think they are protecting us from the pain of knowing death by hiding it from us as children. But in reality, parents prevent us from developing the skills to deal with death when they hide it from us. Instead of allowing us to say goodbye to our dying loved-ones, they withhold that gift from us as if we won’t notice, as if we won’t forever crave that privilege.
I spent 35 years not knowing what to think about death, especially life-after-death. I was one of those people who got frustrated by the subject because it seemed to be a topic that could never be confirmed. By confirmation, I wanted evidence that we continue to exist after death. By evidence, I wanted something concrete that I could grab hold of to know that there was no other logical outcome than to believe life goes on.
Some people hear me speak about life-after-death and think that I have been one of those naïve believers who has accepted the theories and dogma of others all my life. Oh, this is so not true. In fact, my fear of appearing naïve, of being fooled by some tricky charlatan, used to be so intense that I fell a little to the cynical side. Max Lerner must have written directly for me when he wrote, “There is no crime in the cynical American calendar more humiliating than to be a sucker.” So I lived my life, admittedly, as a cynical skeptic.
Even as a child I questioned adults for more evidence to back up their spiritual teachings. I must have been seven or eight years old when my parents first brought me to Catechism class. It was in the bottom of a Catholic church. I sat at the long cafeteria-style table with about ten other little boys and girls and I raised my hand.
“Yes, Bobby, do you have a question?” the teacher asked.
“Well, I just wondered how we really know that heaven exists,” I said.
Right at that moment, this little blonde girl who sat diagonally across from me turned to me with a look of contempt that could have melted the metal buttons on my Roy Rogers cowboy shirt. I hesitated and then continued with my question.
“Is there any proof that there is a heaven?” I asked.
The Catechism teacher was kind and patient. I’ll never forget her answer. She said, “Well, Bobby, we know heaven exists because the same God that created the trees, flowers, oceans, birds, plants, mountains and animals also created a heaven. We know heaven exists because we know God exists.”
Right then, the little blonde girl looked at me again with a nasty smirk on her face and said, “There, satisfied!” And then she stuck her tongue out at me.
Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with my teacher’s answer. And I wouldn’t be satisfied for almost three decades despite ten more years of Catechism classes. But it wasn’t like I continued to seek answers to my uncertainties all this time. I barely paid attention to what the religious teachers said. I had learned from that little blonde girl that I shouldn’t be announcing my doubts in public—it wasn’t worth the public disdain. So I only listened enough to get through without getting into trouble.
Although I was skeptical, it didn’t mean I was narrow-minded. These are two completely different animals. I was always open to new possibilities. I had hope that there was more to life—and death—than I was seeing. So I explored. I visited psychics, tarot readers and so-called spiritual practitioners. But I never met with any degree of satisfaction that there were any truly gifted people in this world who could provide me with the evidence I was seeking. I’m not sure if I was only led to phony practitioners or if my skepticism prevented me from recognizing genuine practitioners. As Robert M. Pirsig wrote, “The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away.” That might have been me.
I gave birth to a new aspect of myself on January 15, 1999. I just had a book published and it was really exciting. However, a couple days after its release, I had a talk with my father. This was a great deal more exciting because my father had been dead for almost two years.
This is the day I met my first genuine and legitimate psychic medium. Yes, there really are people who can communicate with spirits. But, of course, one needs to believe in spirits in order to believe that people can communicate with them. At the time, I wasn’t sure about either.
I heard about a medium from my brother-in-law, Derek. He had just gone to see her and he couldn’t stop talking about his “reading” with her. The main point he kept hammering at me was that she gave him details about his life that nobody could have known—especially this stranger. I liked that idea: details that the psychic medium could never know. Can you imagine? I found it intriguing, to say the least. So I made an appointment with the medium.
It is rare that we have a single experience that immediately alters the course of our life. My appointment with this psychic medium was one of those life-changing experiences. It wasn’t just the fact that I left the medium’s home that night knowing that my father and grandmother, as well as other loved-ones who had passed on, were still alive. And it wasn’t just that I discovered evidence that to me was incredible proof that we live on after we cease to exist on this earthly plane. It was more subtle than that. It was that I had broken through to a new reality that now changed my view of death—and life.
Today I have studied spirit communication and life-after-death for many years. Within my research I have studied near-death experiences, after-death communication, out-of-body experiences, past-life regression and other spiritually related phenomena. What amazes me most is that each new area of study provides additional evidence to verify the existence of life-after-death rather than discredit it. Despite the remaining skepticism I had for practices such as astrology, numerology and tarot readings, every time I adventured into these new areas, my findings only paralleled the evidence I had gained through mediumship, even though my expectation was to disprove these new modalities.
I have had years to think about why a reading with a psychic medium, or any experience that provides evidence of an afterlife, could have such a profound and life-altering effect on me. My conclusion is very simple: it eliminated my fear of death. Gladys Hunt, in her book, Don’t Be Afraid To Die, says that “Psychiatrists are now saying that death is the most important question of our time and that fear of death festers a variety of psychoses… Some psychiatrists believe a massive panic over death pervades young and old alike in our culture.”
Let’s think about that. What is a phobia? Isn’t a fear of germs in some way related to a fear of death? Are not more people afraid to fly in airplanes today than before September 11th, 2001? Dr. Kubler-Ross says there are only two natural fears: fear of heights and fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned. Children will play with spiders, mice and snakes until they see someone scream at the sight of one. Sure, some fears are necessary to protect us from harm. But at what point do our fears limit our ability to live?
Some people never leave their house due to fear. Others never do anything adventurous. Since 9/11, people are traveling less. Traveling less means seeing loved-ones less if they live far away. Traveling less means limiting our ability to experience the world and all its treasures.
And what about people who are dying? How does their fear of death limit their remaining months, weeks or days? Does it limit their remaining life experience due to a fear of accelerating their death? Does it distract them from their experience with loved-ones due to a fearful focus on death? And is it possible that our fear of death negatively affects our ability to heal from life-threatening, although not yet terminal, illnesses and conditions? Although we may never know the answers to these questions, there is no question that people’s fear of death only adds to their suffering with a multitude of effects.
In my experience, discovering that mediums can communicate with the dead proved to me that we don’t really die. The transformation that occurred from this awakening resulted in the elimination of my fear that there is nothing beyond death. This insight gave me a new freedom to live, free from the prison of my fears.
I contend that we must think about death rather than deny or ignore it. By acknowledging death and talking about it, we will be more likely to investigate it. If we investigate death with an open mind, more people will discover—as I have—that we don’t die. If we close our minds to the possibilities, death will remain the end and our fears will prevail. Yet if we are able to see death for what it really is, we will realize that death is a “going home” versus a “going away.” Perhaps John Taylor described it best when he said, “While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”